The Long Way Home

Memento Mori
November 2, 2011, 6:40 AM
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , ,

funeral home advertisement, 1920s

If death is just a natural part of life, then why are we so afraid to talk about it? Jeff and my interest in pre-1930s American mourning culture may stem from our own fears of death. I used to get panic attacks thinking of my mortality, and now, through reading about funeral practices, and my own grieving, I am learning to accept the inevitable. Part of the fascination, too, is the “ordinary” treatment of death, to the point of  kitsch, like the advertisement above for Wilfred F. Reeves Funeral Home. The little girl appears sweet, if somewhat sinister, in representing the “# 1” funeral home where “distance is not too great for our services.” The funeral business was a bustling industry for photographers producing cabinet cards and portraits of the dearly departed, for the bereaved to save their tears in glass vials to pour over the graves of a loved one on the first anniversary of his or her death. It was disrespectful to avoid public displays of grief, unlike today, where there is pressure to keep grief a private matter.

19th Century Art of Mourning – Online museum of Victorian mourning culture and practice.

Teardrop Memories – Antique store with an exhaustive collection of mourning jewelry, windows’ weeds, coffins, skulls, grave markers and post-mortem photography.

german mourning RPPC, 1911


cabinet card of funeral flower arrangements, 1896


2 Comments so far
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Utterly fascinating! I have been tempted to buy one or two of this type of item but have so far resisted in favour of other collections. I love the bizarre and unusual in photography, police mugshots being one of my things. Thanks for the links. Looking forward to checking them out.


Comment by Photobooth Journal

I know what you mean (about paring down the collecting!), which is why I love the Internet – gives us the chance to vicariously live through others’ collections!
Some other great sites to check out for memento mori:


Comment by Lisa

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